Mary Powell’s dreams are coming true. The spry grandma leaves her work as a welder at PK Manufacturing and Tool at 2:30 pm everyday and works on her future Habitat for Humanity refurbished home on Linden Street, in the heart of Richmond. She says she’d work longer if she didn’t have “Gator” at home, her granddaughters’ dog she cares for while they’re temporarily living in Tennessee.

“My dream has always been, as an adult, to own my own home and having a house with a ramp for my daughter Leslie. And now my dream is coming true,” she says tearfully.

Mary has two adult daughters, Leslie, who has Spinal Bifida, a birth defect that has caused paralysis below the waist and Stephanie, who is the mother to Mary’s three, young grandchildren. Both daughters and granddaughters live in Tennessee, close to Mary’s ex-husband, but Mary sees a day in the near future when she can welcome both daughters and granddaughters into her refurbished Habitat-sponsored home and create memories at 1005 Linden Street.

Her current home, a trailer located on Kentucky River Road, was sorely unfit for housing her beloved grandchildren and too expensive for Mary to keep. Utilities have been as high as $300 a month to heat the trailer in the winter. When the landlord increased rent $100 and the mice that had plagued her wouldn’t stay away, she decided to apply for home ownership with Habitat for Humanity.

A quick, two months later she was approved for homeownership. Her experience has been a mix of valuable homeowner information, heart-warming relationships and “sweat equity work,” work that every Habitat homeowner must do before owning their home.  As she walks the road to homeownership, Mary has appreciated the support of Habitat along the way.

“Everyone has just been amazing! They’re just God-fearing people and they have a heart to help people, and I’ve learned so much in the classes.”

She admits that becoming a first-time homeowner can be overwhelming, but that the staff and volunteers at Habitat have done a fantastic job teaching and training. It’s given her the tools and confidence to take on this exciting next step in her life.

Mary’s no stranger to taking the next step; it’s exactly what she did four years ago when she left working in the healthcare and food service industries and took a job as a welder. She currently runs a welding machine that makes car parts and she absolutely loves her work. That decision has proven serendipitous as it’s also where she learned about Habitat for Humanity from co-worker, Samantha VanWinkle, a current Habitat homeowner.

“She kept saying, ‘you need to apply,’ because she knew the circumstances.’’

Mary was unsure that she’d be a good candidate considering that she didn’t have children or grandchildren living with her, but her friend encouraged her to apply and consider the possibilities upon approval; a home for her girls and Gator. Little did Mary know how perfect the home would be.

Now as Mary thinks about what’s transpired since that conversation, she sees perfect timing and God’s hand.

“This house that I’m getting has a concrete ramp. It’s like the house was made for me. I was kind of getting impatient and I kept hearing the Lord say, ‘Be still, be still,’ and I was, and I quit worrying about it.” 

And now she’s staying busy, earning the 350 hours of sweat equity, she’s proving that dreams can come true and she’s ready to own it.

COVID-19 slowed the progress of Mary’s home, but she worked independently during shelter in place. We are now able to return to the build site to help Mary put the finishing touches on her new home.